Catherine Eadie explains why third sector organisations have as big a responsibility to look after staff wellbeing as any other employer
Alarmingly, the Centre for Mental Health has calculated that presenteeism from mental ill health costs the UK economy £15.1 billion a annum, while absenteesim costs £8.4 billion.
What does this mean? What is the reality of this for our workplaces? Well, this currently equates to £554 per person per year. A total of 40% of organisations now report an increase in stress-related absence, and once an employee has been off work for six months, the probability of them getting back to work in another six months is reduced to just 10%.
Whilst it’s probably fair to say that the third sector is different to the public or private sector, sadly it is not immune to mental health issues in the workplace. It faces the same issues in dealing with and tackling what we now often refer to as wellbeing as any other organisation.
Third sector employees can be exposed to harrowing situationsCatherine Eadie
Wellbeing at a basic level is where every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Frustratingly, there isn’t a simple, standard solution to ensuring staff wellbeing in the workplace and no amount of ticking boxes is going to secure wellbeing for your organisation.
It’s a mix of things that make up our wellbeing. That’s vital to understand because if our wellbeing is made up of a combination of things then the road to achieve it must also be similarly varied.
It’s also worth remembering that third sector employees can be exposed to harrowing situations, depending on the particular charity or organisation in question, and the current economic climate has put increased pressure on the sector to maintain or even increase funding and service provision during incredibly challenging times. These things combined are likely to be contributing to the decline of wellbeing as a whole in the sector.
Having said that, the issues affecting wellbeing and mental health in the workplace will differ from person to person and place to place. We must first understand how to approach each situation, with the individual’s needs in mind, in order to give the very best chance of resolving the difficult and often sensitive problems we often encounter.
A huge factor on the road to achieving or making a positive step towards wellbeing is prevention. It is vital that third sector organisations embrace and are 100% committed to providing their workforce with an environment that lives and breathes wellbeing, and this needs to come right from the top. An organisation that adopts and brings about an ethos that the wellbeing of its staff is important will reap the rewards in its employees' positive state of mind, which in turn shapes morale, productivity and efficiency.
So, even though profit is not the motivator in the third sector, the foundations of such an ethos in the workplace is essential. It must come from the very top of the organisation and stretch right across every department, manager and employee to not only ensure the wellbeing of the people but the business itself. In the third sector this is arguably more important than in the public or private sector.